Apartment Renters Offer Their Services to Prevent ‘Corona Divorce’ in Japan

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Couples in Japan confined to their homes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are venting their marriage frustrations online, leading to “corona divorce” trending on social media there, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Monday.

In response, Japanese short-term rentals have started marketing vacant apartments as an opportunity for stressed spouses to temporarily escape quarantine homelife, Japan Times reports.

On April 16, Japan’s government declared a national state of emergency to curb the spread of the coronavirus, limiting people’s movement across the country. During the lockdown, the government has asked citizens to avoid unnecessary outings, schools are closed, and most people are working from home.

According to the Japan Times, decreased tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic has left many Airbnb-style rental properties across Japan empty. Several companies have seized the opportunity to market the vacant apartments as short-term sanctuaries for people who need space from their spouses.

One such company, Kasoku, based in Tokyo, advertises its apartments as the solution for couples on the brink of separation due to quarantine stress.

“Please consult with us before thinking about ‘coronavirus divorce,’” Kasoku advised. The company reportedly offers its furnished units as “temporary shelters” for people to take some time to themselves, whether to escape their family, work, or just relax alone. The apartments cost ¥4,400 [$40] per day.

The company started renting corona-divorce-advertised apartments on April 3. In its first two weeks, the campaign brought in 20 customers, Kasoku’s spokesman, Kosuke Amano, told Japan Times on April 16. The service includes a free 30-minute divorce consultation with a legal official.

Kasoku admits its marketing campaign has been slightly tongue-in-cheek. However, the company says that the apartments have been rented by some people with serious problems, such as a woman escaping domestic violence.

Japan, an island nation with high population density, has long suffered from issues caused by limited space. Especially in Tokyo, Japan’s capital and most populous prefecture, tiny apartments and living spaces are infamous. In addition, Japanese society has engrained gender roles in which women are expected to take on traditional responsibilities of domestic life, such as childcare and chores.

Under these conditions, Japanese homes have been transformed into tiny pressure cookers of stress for spouses, especially women, during the lockdown. Among Kasoku’s renters are a woman “tired of taking care of her children, who are at home all day because of school closures,” and another woman “who said she fled after having a big fight with her husband,” Amano told Japan Times.

Couples seem to be struggling with quarantine life in other parts of the world as well. In China and Russia, divorce rates have reportedly increased during coronavirus lockdowns, according to Japan Times. Still, the use of the term “corona divorce” in Japan seems particularly Japanese given some historical context. The phrase “Narita divorce” was coined in the 1980s in Japan to describe newlywed couples returning to Tokyo’s Narita Airport after their honeymoon, where they would often decide to separate after realizing they had nothing in common, according to SCMP.

Japanese public broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) has been devoting a section of its morning program to give advice on how to avoid and diffuse marriage tensions that could possibly lead to divorce, Japan Times reports. About 35 percent of marriages in Japan end in divorce, compared to 45 percent in the United States, according to SCMP.

Although originally expected to end May 6, Japan’s government has been eyeing an extension to its current coronavirus lockdown, Japan Times reported on April 26. At press time on Tuesday, Japan had 13,614 infections and 385 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.


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